Caritas of Austin provides safe, stable, and affordable housing for people and families experiencing homelessness in Greater Austin. The organization’s staff members partner with clients to construct a community of ongoing support so clients can withstand the storms of life that affect us all. To support clients and build the conditions of holistic well-being, Caritas uses evidence-based techniques like the housing-first approach and provides wrap-around services such as employment, education, food services that include a Community Kitchen and two pantry locations, and a Community Access Center.
“When people have a safe place to call home, they can begin to rebuild their lives, reach their full potential, and contribute to the community around them,” said Jo Kathryn Quinn, CEO and President of Caritas of Austin.
In fiscal year (FY) 2021, Caritas of Austin provided 609 individuals with housing services, served 34,049 hot meals in its Community Kitchen, provided 18,915 additional meals in the form of healthy groceries, placed 45 clients in new jobs, offered 187 education classes, and provided 102 veteran households with housing services and personalized case management. Further, Caritas’s supportive housing program achieved a 97% stability rate, meaning that almost all clients served by the organization found stable housing and did not return to homelessness.
Caritas is also the fiscal agent for and lead organization in the Best Single Source Plus Program (BSS+), a no-wrong-door collaborative of 12 nonprofit agencies in Travis County that provides comprehensive case management and direct financial assistance with the goal of preventing and ending homelessness. In FY21, the BSS+ Collaborative served 2,538 individuals.
Organizations that serve individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Greater Austin operate in a unique and challenging political environment. The Austin City Council repealed Austin’s decades-long ban on homeless encampments in 2019, a victory in the movement to decriminalize homelessness. The resulting increase in visible unsheltered homelessness, however, prompted a backlash from housed community members. A public campaign ultimately succeeded in passing a ballot initiative to reinstate the camping ban in 2021.
In an atmosphere of misinformation and dehumanizing rhetoric about people experiencing homelessness, a group of private- and public-sector leaders mobilized around the goal of ending unsheltered homelessness and collectively housing 3,000 people – about 95% of Austin’s unhoused population – in three years.
As one of the largest and oldest organizations serving people experiencing homelessness in Greater Austin, Caritas is at the forefront of the community’s ambitious efforts to end unsheltered homelessness. The organization recently launched the Vision 2025 campaign, an initiative to double its organizational capacity and house 1,260 people annually by 2025. To achieve this goal, Caritas is increasing its property partnerships and building its own affordable housing.
In August 2021, Caritas of Austin celebrated an important milestone with the groundbreaking at Espero Austin, a new supportive housing development that will house 171 people in studio apartments. Construction will continue throughout 2022 with the goal of completion next year.